How Mumbaikars can register civic complaints and ensure BMC action

BMC's system to register civic complaints is good, but the Blue Ribbon Movement is trying to improve redressal for a better and cleaner Mumbai.

In early January, Dahisar resident Pankati noticed garbage being thrown behind one of the electric junction boxes in Kandarpada, her neighbourhood. It had accumulated over a few weeks. This was not a garbage collection point and it used to be clean before. She decided to raise a civic complaint on that garbage issue using the ‘MyBMC Assist’ WhatsApp Chatbot, which is run by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC).

garbage behind an electric box in Khadarpada
Pankati, a volunteer with the Blue Ribbon Movement, found garbage being dumped behind an electric junction box in Khandarpada. Pic: Aniruddha Gaonkar

After waiting for over a month, the garbage was still not getting picked up, but the complaint was marked as resolved on the grievance redressal website. Knowing from her past experience that follow-ups would be needed for an unresolved issue like this one, she started reaching out to the area officer and asking for an update. The area officer assured her that work would be done soon. He said the delay was because of a staff shortage. The next time she went to that area, she saw the garbage and rubble had been cleared. 

She was happy and felt she had contributed positively and made her surroundings better for all. She is one of the many youths in Mumbai, who have been volunteering and working with the Blue Ribbon Movement over the last six years.

Blue Ribbon Movement garbage clearance after BMC complaint
Pankati followed up with the area officer of BMC to get garbage cleared at a spot in her vicinity. Pic: Aniruddha Gaonkar


Read more: Accountability: how to raise complaints with the BMC


BMC and Blue Ribbon Movement

Blue Ribbon Movement (BRM) is a youth-led organisation of active citizens of Mumbai, who volunteer to work on local civic issues and spread awareness about civic engagement through its various programmes and events. We have been working with the city’s youth on Mumbai’s civic system for more than a decade. Our approach to bringing positive change is to work with the BMC and constructively use its citizen engagement platforms.

The BMC, the local civic body, has one of the most technologically advanced and user-friendly citizen engagement platforms, especially their grievance redressal system. Over the last decade, BRM has witnessed the MCGM’s continuous efforts to bring easy and simple methods for its citizens to interact with them easily. 

In our citizen awareness activities, we often share the various ways a citizen can choose to file a complaint for any civic issue, for example, toll-free helpline number 1916, MyBMC Assist (WhatsApp) Chatbot, Twitter, the BMC website and many more.

Earlier this year, in the first week of January, BRM’s volunteers did a complaint filing marathon, or an Act-a-thon as BRM calls it, to rigorously work on local civic issues in their locality. 

We found and filed complaints of more than 60 civic issues with BMC using their grievance redressal system.

Experience with BMC’s grievance redressal system

One of these complaints (through BMC’s redressal systems) in Dahisar was filed by Akash Upase about a bad patch on a road near Kandarpada Metro Station. The road is at a slope, which makes it more dangerous for both – the ongoing two-wheelers and the pedestrians. After a few months, the issue still remains unresolved. However, the complaint has been marked resolved and closed on the grievance redressal website. 

Unsafe road in Khandarpada
Akash Upase filed a complaint about a bad patch of road in Dahisar, but the issue was not resolved. Pic: Akash Upase

We realised that the BMC has done a good job of creating and implementing a simplified mechanism for citizens to take part in improving the city’s civic infrastructure quality. But it still needs to improve the grievance redressal system. Glitches in the latter often adversely affect the complainant’s resolution journey, as experienced by Akash Upase. 


Read more: Tracking civic grievances in Mumbai is tough as people take to social media to complain


Acta-a-thon to access BMC’s redressal system

During the Act-a-thon and after analysing the experiences, we found that Akash and many others had faced a mismatch in expectations, complaint filing and resolution rate when it came to dealing with the BMC. 

In our follow-up on the complaints, we identified the following observations:

  • Many of our complaints have either been marked as false, closed or marked resolved on the grievance redressal website.
  • When we went on the ground to check the actual status of the issues, the status of most of the complaints did not match that of BMC’s website and were still unresolved.
  • The location a citizen shares on the My BMC Assist WhatsApp chatbot while filing the complaint does not reach the officials working on the complaint resolution, making it difficult for them to track it from the description alone.  
  • The pictures clicked and uploaded while filing complaints of issues were not present on the grievance redressal website anymore. A few years ago, it was available there with the status. (possibly meaning pictures don’t reach the officials in charge of resolving the complaints).

These findings have been consistent with BRM’s past experience with the complaint filing system. The majority of the complaints are about solid waste management, and roads and traffic as these are the issues that affect citizens the most in their daily lives.

It’s important to understand that these issues pose an ever-looming threat to a citizen’s life and may cause harm at any moment when they get worse.

While we find that the ease of filing a civic complaint is at its highest, the process after that, which is the resolving them, is much more difficult.

To understand this mismatch better, we looked deeper into the situation and discovered possible areas of improvement in the complaint filing and resolution process for the municipal corporation.

One of the main reasons for this could be that the BMC does not have enough personnel.

In the follow-ups to the complaints, some of our volunteers also visited ward offices and called relevant area officers to ask about the status of the work on the issues.

Moreover, after filing civic complaints, many BMC officials called our volunteers to give an update or ask for more details about the issue on the ground, making working with them much easier. Increasing this number for all filed complaints will definitely improve the relationship between the corporation and the citizens.

As a group of active citizens working on the city’s civic issues, we wish to work constructively with MCGM by keeping the communication loop open between the municipal corporation & the citizens.


Read more: Will the ban on open garbage burning reduce pollution in Mumbai?


How do you ensure that BMC takes note of your complaint?

In addition to the points listed above for the BMC, we also realised the need for the citizens to be mindful of the correct ways of filing civic complaints to resolve their issues.

It is important to:

  • understand the nature, frequency and gravity of the civic issue by observing it for a few days and/or talking to nearby residents before filing the complaint 
  • identify the appropriate category of the issue and file it under the relevant department while registering the civic complaint
  • write a crisp description of the issue and add the location landmark for BMC officials to find it easily 
  • check the status of the complaint on the grievance redressal website and on-ground every week
  • proactively engage and assist BMC officials, if they reach out to the citizens for an update or more information
  • follow up with the area officer or visit the ward office to enquire about the complaint, if the issue remains unresolved on-ground after a few weeks of filing

We hope to continue our work and support the BMC’s efforts to bring quality civic infrastructure for all its citizens. We believe that these guidelines will make complaint filing easier for our volunteers and the citizens we reach through our civic awareness efforts.

Most of the commonly used ways to file a civic complaint are listed below – 

1Toll Free BMC helpline to register complaints 1916
2My BMC Assist Chatbot (WhatsApp)+91 89992 28999
3BMC Official Website https://portal.mcgm.gov.in/irj/portal/anonymous/qlChecklistLGc
4Twitter handles for each of the 24 administrative wards @mybmcWard__ (Specific ward letters in place of “__”)E.g. @mybmcWardGS (for G South ward)@mybmcWardL (for simply L ward)
5My BMC App Available on both iOS & Android app stores
6Aaple Sarkar Grievance Redressal Portal (at Maharashtra state level)https://grievances.maharashtra.gov.in/en
If you wish to know more about or volunteer with Blue Ribbon Movement, you can visit their website – https://www.brmworld.org or connect via Instagram at https://www.instagram.com/blueribbonmovement/.

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